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Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves

by

Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Is there anything new to say about Thomas Jefferson and slavery? The answer is a resounding yes. Master of the Mountain, Henry Wienceks eloquent, persuasive book—based on new information coming from archaeological work at Monticello and on hitherto overlooked or disregarded evidence in Jeffersons papers—opens up a huge, poorly understood dimension of Jeffersons world. We must, Wiencek suggests, follow the money.

So far, historians have offered only easy irony or paradox to explain this extraordinary Founding Father who was an emancipationist in his youth and then recoiled from his own inspiring rhetoric and equivocated about slavery; who enjoyed his renown as a revolutionary leader yet kept some of his own children as slaves. But Wienceks Jefferson is a man of business and public affairs who makes a success of his debt-ridden plantation thanks to what he calls the “silent profits” gained from his slaves—and thanks to a skewed moral universe that he and thousands of others readily inhabited. We see Jefferson taking out a slave-equity line of credit with a Dutch bank to finance the building of Monticello and deftly creating smoke screens when visitors are dismayed by his apparent endorsement of a system they thought hed vowed to overturn. It is not a pretty story. Slave boys are whipped to make them work in the nail factory at Monticello that pays Jeffersons grocery bills. Parents are divided from children—in his ledgers they are recast as money—while he composes theories that obscure the dynamics of what some of his friends call “a vile commerce.”

Many people of Jeffersons time saw a catastrophe coming and tried to stop it, but not Jefferson. The pursuit of happiness had been badly distorted, and an oligarchy was getting very rich. Is this the quintessential American story?

Synopsis:

Henry Wienceks eloquent, persuasive Master of the Mountain—based on new information coming from archival research, archaeological work at Monticello, and hitherto overlooked or disregarded evidence in Thomas Jeffersons own papers—opens up a huge, poorly understood dimension of Jeffersons faraway world. We must, Wiencek suggests, follow the money.

Wienceks Jefferson is a man of business and public affairs who makes a success of his debt-ridden plantation thanks to what he calls the “silent profit” gained from his slaves—and thanks to the skewed morals of the political and social world that he and thousands of others readily inhabited. It is not a pretty story. Slave boys are whipped to make them work in the nail factory at Monticello that pays Jeffersons grocery bills. Slaves are bought, sold, given as gifts, and used as collateral for the loan that pays for Monticellos construction—while Jefferson composes theories that obscure the dynamics of what he himself called “the execrable commerce.” Many people saw a catastrophe coming and tried to stop it, but not Jefferson. The pursuit of happiness had become deeply corrupted, and an oligarchy was getting very rich. Is this the quintessential American story?

Synopsis:

Is there anything new to say about Thomas Jefferson and slavery? The answer is a resounding yes. Master of the Mountain, Henry Wienceks eloquent, persuasive book—based on new information coming from archaeological work at Monticello and on hitherto overlooked or disregarded evidence in Jeffersons papers—opens up a huge, poorly understood dimension of Jeffersons world. We must, Wiencek suggests, follow the money.

So far, historians have offered only easy irony or paradox to explain this extraordinary Founding Father who was an emancipationist in his youth and then recoiled from his own inspiring rhetoric and equivocated about slavery; who enjoyed his renown as a revolutionary leader yet kept some of his own children as slaves. But Wienceks Jefferson is a man of business and public affairs who makes a success of his debt-ridden plantation thanks to what he calls the “silent profits” gained from his slaves—and thanks to a skewed moral universe that he and thousands of others readily inhabited. We see Jefferson taking out a slave-equity line of credit with a Dutch bank to finance the building of Monticello and deftly creating smoke screens when visitors are dismayed by his apparent endorsement of a system they thought hed vowed to overturn. It is not a pretty story. Slave boys are whipped to make them work in the nail factory at Monticello that pays Jeffersons grocery bills. Parents are divided from children—in his ledgers they are recast as money—while he composes theories that obscure the dynamics of what some of his friends call “a vile commerce.”

Many people of Jeffersons time saw a catastrophe coming and tried to stop it, but not Jefferson. The pursuit of happiness had been badly distorted, and an oligarchy was getting very rich. Is this the quintessential American story?

About the Author

Henry Wiencek, a nationally prominent historian and writer, is the author of several books, including The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1999, and An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America (FSG, 2003). He lives with his wife and son in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374534028
Author:
Wiencek, Henry
Publisher:
Farrar Straus Giroux
Subject:
United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)
Subject:
Presidents & Heads of State
Subject:
Biography-Presidents and Heads of State
Subject:
Slavery
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20130931
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
8 Pages of Black-and-White Illustrations
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb

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Related Subjects

Biography » Presidents and Heads of State
Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » Sociology » Slavery
History and Social Science » US History » Presidents » Jefferson, Thomas
History and Social Science » US History » Revolution and Constitution Era
History and Social Science » US History » US Presidency
History and Social Science » World History » General

Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves New Trade Paper
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Product details 352 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374534028 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Henry Wienceks eloquent, persuasive Master of the Mountain—based on new information coming from archival research, archaeological work at Monticello, and hitherto overlooked or disregarded evidence in Thomas Jeffersons own papers—opens up a huge, poorly understood dimension of Jeffersons faraway world. We must, Wiencek suggests, follow the money.

Wienceks Jefferson is a man of business and public affairs who makes a success of his debt-ridden plantation thanks to what he calls the “silent profit” gained from his slaves—and thanks to the skewed morals of the political and social world that he and thousands of others readily inhabited. It is not a pretty story. Slave boys are whipped to make them work in the nail factory at Monticello that pays Jeffersons grocery bills. Slaves are bought, sold, given as gifts, and used as collateral for the loan that pays for Monticellos construction—while Jefferson composes theories that obscure the dynamics of what he himself called “the execrable commerce.” Many people saw a catastrophe coming and tried to stop it, but not Jefferson. The pursuit of happiness had become deeply corrupted, and an oligarchy was getting very rich. Is this the quintessential American story?

"Synopsis" by , Is there anything new to say about Thomas Jefferson and slavery? The answer is a resounding yes. Master of the Mountain, Henry Wienceks eloquent, persuasive book—based on new information coming from archaeological work at Monticello and on hitherto overlooked or disregarded evidence in Jeffersons papers—opens up a huge, poorly understood dimension of Jeffersons world. We must, Wiencek suggests, follow the money.

So far, historians have offered only easy irony or paradox to explain this extraordinary Founding Father who was an emancipationist in his youth and then recoiled from his own inspiring rhetoric and equivocated about slavery; who enjoyed his renown as a revolutionary leader yet kept some of his own children as slaves. But Wienceks Jefferson is a man of business and public affairs who makes a success of his debt-ridden plantation thanks to what he calls the “silent profits” gained from his slaves—and thanks to a skewed moral universe that he and thousands of others readily inhabited. We see Jefferson taking out a slave-equity line of credit with a Dutch bank to finance the building of Monticello and deftly creating smoke screens when visitors are dismayed by his apparent endorsement of a system they thought hed vowed to overturn. It is not a pretty story. Slave boys are whipped to make them work in the nail factory at Monticello that pays Jeffersons grocery bills. Parents are divided from children—in his ledgers they are recast as money—while he composes theories that obscure the dynamics of what some of his friends call “a vile commerce.”

Many people of Jeffersons time saw a catastrophe coming and tried to stop it, but not Jefferson. The pursuit of happiness had been badly distorted, and an oligarchy was getting very rich. Is this the quintessential American story?

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